Frigid weather to stick around this week

rsouthmayd@heraldonline.comJanuary 4, 2014 

  • What is the wind chill factor?

    When it’s cold outside, there’s often talk about the “wind chill” or “wind chill factor,” which is how cold it feels, as opposed to the actual temperature. Adding any sort of wind to chilly temperatures can make the air feel even colder, fast.

    Around 6 a.m. Tuesday, when the outdoor temperature might be around 12 degrees in York County, it will feel closer to zero degrees because of a slight breeze.

More than 90 percent of the continental United States is expected to see temperatures below freezing this week, and South Carolina is no exception.

Near-record low temperatures are in the forecast Monday and Tuesday, and residents are advised to take care of their pets, plants, homes and cars.

Monday’s low temperatures are expected to dip to near 10 degrees. Tuesday’s lows won’t be much warmer, perhaps around 15. Tuesday’s high temperatures are expected to remain below freezing, topping out around 30, according to the National Weather Service.

The low for Monday is 5 degrees, a record low in 1904, according to the National Weather Service.

The coldest temperature ever recorded in this region was minus-6 degrees in 1966.

To prepare your home

Make sure your furnace or heater is functional and call for repairs if it isn’t.

If using space heaters that run on gas or electric, take proper safety precautions. Hundreds of people are killed in fires caused by portable heaters every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Make sure heaters are at least three feet from anything that could catch on fire, and never leave children or pets alone with heaters or leave them on when away from home.

Monitor your pipes for freezing, especially if they’re somewhere uninsulated, like an attic, garage, basement or crawl space. A survey of 71 plumbers in the South showed that the majority saw pipes freeze or burst when temperatures fell to 20 degrees and below. With two nights of below-20-degree temperatures expected this week, the likelihood of freezing or bursting increases. If water stops flowing from a faucet or there’s reason to suspect frozen pipes, call a professional plumber as soon as possible and don’t try to fix the problem yourself.

To prepare your car

Top off your windshield wiper fluid and antifreeze. You’ll need both to keep your car running smoothly and clear your windows of frost for safe visibility.

Make sure your heat is functioning in your vehicle, particularly if you have children, older people or those who are ill in your car.

Do not leave your car running to warm it up, even if it’s in your driveway. Multiple cars are stolen this way every year in York County. But do allow your car to warm up before driving off. This allows fluids to warm up, which will make the car perform better and help avoid other problems.

To prepare your plants

Most plants shouldn’t be hurt by the cold weather because it won’t be very cold for long, said Rolling Hills Nursery co-owner Steve Crump.

“The problem isn’t necessarily the cold,” he said. “It’s the wind blowing in the foliage.”

In cold weather, plants are actually more prone to drying out than freezing, he said.

Any plant that’s fragile and can be moved should be brought inside out of the wind, and if it can’t be moved, should be covered with a blanket or a sheet, but not plastic, he said, to protect it from the wind.

But because we’ve already had fairly cold temperatures this winter, most plants should be adapted and not harmed in the long run by this weather, he said.

If a plant is brought inside, though, it should only stay there for as long as necessary so it doesn’t re-adapt to the indoor temperature before going back out for the remainder of the winter.

Protecting your pets

The best option in extremely cold temperatures is to keep pets in a heated home, said Jean Ruddy, assistant director of the York County Humane Society. But if that’s not possible, a heated garage or shed will do.

If animals do have to stay outside, special precautions should be taken with their food and water.

“Make sure to go out and check it because it will freeze over very quickly,” Ruddy said of soft food and water.

She also recommended putting warm clothing, like sweaters, on animals, and said they don’t have to be the ones specially fit for animals. Any warm clothing item that can fit a pet will do just fine.

If pets need to be taken out for a walk, Ruddy said to wait until the temperatures warm up during the day before taking them out.

Motorists should be wary of stray animals hiding under their cars. At the shelter, Ruddy said, workers always tap their horns before driving their cars to frighten any animals out.

Protecting yourself

Staying indoors in a heated space out of the cold is the best option, but when it’s necessary to go out, bundle up, but not too much.

If a person has so many layers on that they become sweaty, the body actually has a harder time retaining heat.

It’s also important to cover extremities, such as hands and feet, because the body uses blood from these body parts to keep the core warm.

And while it’s actually a myth that humans lose 45 percent of their heat from their heads, a hat can go a long way to help a person feel warmer.

Rachel Southmayd •  803-329-4072

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